Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Haunted Pittsburgh


Hey, we briefly interrupt our creepy critter tour to tout Haunted Pittsburgh to our local readers and City visitors. H&H's hometown has spooks galore, but up until now, nobody has ever bothered to set up a vehicle to acquaint us with Pittsburgh's paranormal past.

And what better way to get into the Halloween spirit than with some 'Burgh boos?

First, you can get the sit-down version of the Steel City's spooks at the allegedly haunted Gypsy Cafe in South Side on 1330 Bingham Street. HP offers "dinner served with goose bumps," Wednesdays through Halloween: October 7th (7:30 start), 14th (7:30 start), 21st (8 pm start), and 28th (8 pm start).

Special Monday dinner shows October 12th and 19th feature a medium and tarot card readings. Call 381-4977 to reserve a spot for a meal and some macabre myths.

You'll be tormented by tales of spooked-out North Side mansions, Henry Clay Frick and Clayton, Roberto Clemente's premonition, Fallingwater's specter, Kaufman's ghost, and the Johnstown Flood legacy.

For the more adventurous, Haunted Pittsburgh offers a walking tour of South Side haunts, starting at the Carson Street Deli at 1507 East Carson Street, and departing at 7 and 8:30 every Friday and Saturday night. Give HP a call at 381-5335 if you like your ghosties close up and personal, click on their web site, or e-mail them at Haunted Pittsburgh. Of course, you could just walk up to the Deli and buy a ducat, too. That works.

Haunted Pittsburgh is the love child of attorneys Michelle Smith and Tim Murray. They've collected and researched some of the Three Rivers' otherworldly history, and decided hey, if ghost gambols work in Gettysburg and New Hope, why not here?

So if your only experience with Pittsburgh's spookdom is the Zombie walk, check out Haunted Pittsburgh. It sounds like a screamin' good time.

(And no, H&H is not associated with HP nor has been bribed by any ghoulish goodies. We just felt like someone working the same side of the Steel City's spectral street deserved a little love.)

Friday, September 25, 2009


Mansi picture of Champ from Genesis Park

Lake Champlain on the New York-Vermont border was named after Samuel de Champlain, the French explorer that discovered it. So is Champ, its legendary monster that was also discovered by the intrepid Monsieur Champlain.

He sighted Champ in July of 1609, and described the creature as a "20 foot serpent thick as a barrel with a head like a horse," although some think Sam saw a garfish.

But if Native American mythology is to be believed, he wasn't the first. The tribe that lived near Lake Champlain was the Abenaqi. They had their own lore concerning a creature in the lake which they called Tatoskok. The natives used to leave offerings for the creature so it wouldn't nibble on shoreline life - like the Abenaqi.

Champ, in fact, has been officially reported sighted 300 times, beginning in 1819. It's consistently described as a cross between a plesiosaur, a creature from the age of the dinosaurs, and a serpent. Some have proof.

In 1977 a photograph was taken by a tourist from Connecticut, Sandra Mansi. The Mansis were having a lake shore picnic when they saw a creature rise up out of the depths. She grabbed her Instamatic and snapped the best photo ever taken of Champ.

The print was studied by many sources and doesn't appear altered in any way, an easier thing to determine back in the pre-Photoshop days. Unfortunately, she didn't keep the negative, so there's always that question...

Champ has been video-taped at least twice. Sonar and underwater microphones have picked up evidence of a big critter lurking under the waves. Unsolved Mysteries, ABC News, and The Discovery Channel have all featured Champ.

The lake could possibly hide a monster or some lost species of dinosaur. After all, it is 109 miles long, and in some places it's 400 feet deep and pitch black.

But a word of warning - Lake Champlain is very much like Loch Ness. It is long, deep, narrow and cold. Scientists have discovered that both bodies of water have an underwater wave called a seiche that can throw debris from the bottom of the lake up to the surface. Some skeptics think this may explain many of the monster sightings.

Like the Loch Ness Monster, many authorities regard Champ is a groundless legend promoted by local tourist agencies. Others believe there's a rational explanation. According to the Lake Champlain Land Trust:
One theory suggests that Champ is a dinosaur that managed to escape extinction and lives on in Lake Champlain. Another suggests that the creatures could be surviving zeuglodons, a primitive form of whale with a long snake like body. These creatures have been thought to be long extinct, but fossils of them have been found a few miles form Lake Champlain in Vermont.

Champ might also be a Lake Sturgeon. There are sturgeon in Lake Champlain and they can grow to great lengths. They are a very old, almost prehistoric fish with a scale-less body that is supported by a partially cartilaginous skeleton along with rows of scutes. Its single dorsal fin, running along its spine, would match many descriptions of Champ, although its sharp, shark-like tail would not.

Another theory is that Champ could be related to a plesiosaur. A plesiosaur is a prehistoric water dwelling reptile (not a dinosaur) with a long snakelike head and four large flippers. Plesiosaurs loved fish and other aquatic animals. Scientists date the plesiosaur to the Triassic period, 200 million years ago, through the Cretaceous period, about 65 million years ago (when all dinosaurs are thought to have gone extinct).

And here's the ultimate proof of Champ's fame: showman P.T. Barnum posted a $50,000 reward for the "hide of the great Champlain serpent to add to my mammoth World's Fair Show."

And ol' PT would never try to pull a fast one, would he? (Although just in case, Vermont passed a bill into law in 1983 which protected the creature from human harm.)

Champ vid

Friday, September 18, 2009

White Stag of Shamong

White Stag from Quark

Now we're off to New Jersey. We've already posted about the Bad Boy of the Pine Barrens, the Jersey Devil.

being an equal opportunity blog, we thought we'd try to offset some of the bad press the Jersey Devil has given the state by relating the tale of a Dudley Do-Right creature, the White Stag of Shamong, in Burlington county.

To get to their Meeting House in Tuckerton, local Quakers had for decades traveled an old trail, barely more than a path, through the pine barrens. The road crossed the Batso River, which had to be forded. In 1772, several travelers drowned in its roaring waters.

After the disaster, the Friends rolled up their sleeves and built what became known as Quaker Bridge. Their trail, Quaker Bridge Road (which still exists, somewhat rerouted), soon became the most traveled route to Tuckerton, then a busy ship building town.

One rainy, lightning filled night, a stagecoach was attempting to reach a tavern, the Quaker Bridge Inn, on the other side of the river to ride out the storm. The driver breathed a sigh of relief when he saw a light in the distance from the Inn. He was close enough to the bridge to hear the rushing water roar past.

Suddenly, a White Stag appeared out of nowhere in the middle of the road, frightening the horses and blocking the stage.

With the horses snorting and rearing, the driver tied down the reins and got off the coach, trusty rifle in hand, hoping to shoo the creature away and get his passengers to the warmth and safety of the Inn. He hit the ground and tried to cluck the stag off of the road.

Then, in front of his eyes, the animal disappeared. The teamster slowly walked the approach to Quaker Bridge, looking for the White Stag. He not only couldn't the find it, but discovered that the bridge had washed out during the storm.

Had it not been for the White Stag, the stage and everyone on it would have plunged into the angry waters of the swollen Batso River.

The local Lenape tribe considered a white stag an omen of good luck. Since that day, everyone in the Barrens agreed. It's been spotted several times since, always as a warning of impending danger.

Though Shamong Township and the area is brimming with deer hunting clubs, no one has ever tried to bag a white stag thanks to that long-ago night. The last live one was spotted in 1953, but its spectral cousin is still thought to be in the Pine Barrens, watching over its travelers.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Thunderbird Totem from Wikipedia

Hey, H&H just took a road trip of college campuses. We think we're gonna hop in the ol' heap and take another cross-state spin, this time in search of creepy critters. Every state has an unexplained spooky, scaly saurian of some sort in its woods or waters.

We've already done a pair of Pennsylvania's macabre mutts, Boo-Boo Bridge's Suscon Screamer and Chickie Rock's Albawitches. Now we're after the fearsome Thunderbird.

The Thunderbird isn't a johnny-come-lately to the cryptozoid party. There have been sightings dating back way before Europeans set eyes on the Promised Land. Its winged figure has been painted on rocks and has adorned the totems of Native American lodges from sea to shining sea for centuries before the Pilgrims dropped anchor.

According to the myths, the giant Thunderbird could shoot lightning from its eyes and its wings were so enormous that they created peals of thunder when they flapped, creating storms as they flew by.

For the tribes of the local Iroquois Confederacy, Hino, the Thunderbird, was the guardian of the skies and the spirit of thunder, and could assume the form of a human when it wished.

They believed that the Thunderbirds could morph into human form by tilting back their beaks like a mask, and removing their feathers as if they were a blanket. In fact, there is lore of Thunderbirds in human form marrying into Native American families, and some tribes trace their lineage to T-Birds.

One tale tells of a clan of Thunderbirds in human form that lived along the northern tip of Vancouver Island. Other short-memoried tribes forgot the true nature of these Thunderbird families, and took them as slaves in their human shape. The Thunderbirds put on their feathers, straightened their beaks, and reverted to form to wreak vengeance upon their captors. Ah, payback...

Now there's some debate concerning the intentions of these giant birds. Some tribal legends paint them as guardians and a good omen; others consider them war-like and predatory. One thing that both sets of tales agree on is that friendly or not, you don't want to get on the bad side of a Thunderbird.

In the legends of the Miami tribe, the birds interloped while they were fighting their traditional foes, the Mestchegamies. As the battle was reaching its climax, two Thunderbirds emerged from their lair, and each snatched a Miami war chief in its talons. The Miamis dropped their weapons and fled, never to return, believing that the Great Spirit had sent the birds to help their enemies.

But the victory was double-edged. Soon after the Thunderbirds had flown off with the Miami warriors, whom they presumably devoured, the T-Birds developed a taste for human flesh. As a result, the Mestchegami paid for their conquest by having to provide regular sacrifices of their kin to sate the appetite of the Thunderbirds.

OK, OK, what about Pennsylvania? Though spotted all over the country, and for that matter, the world, no place comes close to the number of Thunderbird reports as does Pennsylvania. The Keystone State's Thunderbird stories have been traced well into the nineteenth century.

Most of the sightings come from the Black Forest region of Clinton, Potter, Lycoming, Tioga, Cameron, and McKean counties, sparsely populated areas of mainly state forests and gamelands.

Southwest Pennsylvania is another prime spot for Thunderbird watchers. Both are naturals, as the Thunderbird of legend doesn't live in an aerie, but prefers caves or mines.

Just this decade, there have been reports of Thunderbirds from South Greensburg, Erie, and Greenville. Older reports come from Bear Run, Beaver Falls, Centerville, Coudersport, Dents Run, Hammersley Forks, Hyner, Jersey Shore, Kettle Creek, Little Pine Creek, Lock Haven, Murrysville, Ole Bull, Renova, Shingletown, Sunderlinville...well, you get the picture.

Some of these sightings have been quite lengthy, one lasting 20 minutes. Several souls have seen the Thunderbird close up, either perched in a sturdy tree or hovering low overhead.

And surprisingly, most have been fairly quiet meetings; it seems that the storm birds of Six Nation myth prefer to glide through the sky, although one person described the flapping wings as making a noise like flags snapping in a strong wind.

It's hard to miss one or confuse it with an eagle or vulture. The Thunderbird has been described as having a 15-20' wingspan, standing 4-8' tall, and being dark colored; brown, gray, or black. And that description has held true pretty consistently, no matter who's spotted the Big Bird.

The largest wingspan known for a documented living bird is that of the wandering albatross, with a wingspan to 12 feet. The Andean and the California condor have wingspans of 10 feet. Many biologist believe that the Thunderbird may be a throw-back of the Condor family.

Others have posited that it's a modern day pterodactyl cousin, but until one is captured, we'll never know. There was supposed a picture taken of one in Texas years ago that was printed in a newspaper or magazine, and while many have claimed to see the photo, no one's ever found the published shot.

The most terrifying story about Thunderbirds is that they occasionally attempt to carry away family pets or children. None of those tales originated in Pennsylvania, although there have been reports of seeing the bird snatch small deer for a snack.

But if you do run across one and have Junior or Fido with you, head for cover. Remember that old Miami myth...?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Macabre Maryland

rossborough inn
Rossborough Inn

The University of Maryland completes our regional road trip of spooky schools. The UM campus is at College Park, near to the hyper haunted towns of Baltimore and Washington, DC. And it holds its own in the realm of the paranormal.

Alpha Omicron Pi House:
The girls claim to have seen and heard the ghost of a sorority sister who died in a 1995 car accident. Other phenomena include music suddenly playing, computers humming away on their own, and objects falling or moving on their own accord. It's also been reported that at least one AOP sister saw a disembodied pair of red eyes staring at her.

Davidge Hall: Davidge Hall is the oldest medical school building in the western hemisphere. One of its quirks is the fact that there are many escape routes from its rooms, dating back from the day when students sliced up cadavers illegally brought to them by grave robbers.

But for all that history, the Hall is gently haunted. Many people have a feeling of uneasiness while in building, and report hearing unexplained sounds and voices. It's not very spooked out for a body chop shop.

Delta Tau Delta House:
Soon after a fraternity brother was killed in an auto accident in 1955, there were reports of strange happenings in the house. Furniture was shifted around in the middle of the night. The cook was afraid to be in the kitchen because a piece of the dead brother's furniture moved itself there, and a cabinet was always warm to the touch inside. Chairs move by themselves late at night.

This was based on a 1976 story, so whether the DTD house still is home to its departed brother's presence or not is unknown.

Easton Hall:
The story here is that a freshman committed suicide by jumping out an window in the 1990s, and his spook still haunts the eighth floor of the co-ed hall.

Kappa Delta House:
University Registrar Alma Preinkert was much beloved on campus. The entire UM community was stunned when she became the victim of an unsolved murder in her Washington, D.C. home in 1954. That held specially true for the KD sisters. Alma was a founder of the Kappa Delta sorority at Maryland.

She's said to haunt the halls of the sorority house she helped establish. And she's not alone; the shades of girls in white dresses dancing on the KD sundeck during the summer when the house is closed have also been reported. Otherworld rush, maybe?

Medical Center: This building used to serve as a morgue. Custodial and security staff have reported hearing strange noises and sensing a presence at night, and a feeling of ill ease bordering on fear when they enter the basement, where the cadavers were on ice. Whether they're having a natural reaction to a death house or whether there are actually ghosties bumping things in the night we'll leave for you to decide.

Morrill Hall:
The Hall was built in 1898 and is the oldest campus building with its original facade intact. Workers found human remains under a sink while renovating the Hall, but it's paranormal claim to fame has more to do with sensations than spooks. The custodial and maintenance staff have heard noises late at night, and claim that people trip and fall with some netherland assistance.

But it's most known for its mysterious smells. Morrill Hall's lore includes the Thanksgiving fire of 1912, in which it was the only building to survive the blaze. It's alleged that to this day, you can still smell the smoke from conflagration that almost claimed every structure on campus.

Marie Mount Hall:
Constructed in 1940 as an addition to Silvester Hall, its walls and ceilings slant at odd angles to merge with the old construction. It went by a couple of names - the Home Economics Building and the Margaret Brent Hall - until in 1967 the Board of Regents renamed it Marie Mount Hall in appreciation of Marie Mount's contributions in home economics at the university.

Campus employees claim to have seen Mount's ghost and heard her playing the piano on stormy nights, and on Halloween evening. A portrait of Marie Mount is said to watch the Hall's visitors, its eyes following their every move around the room. We guess the old Home Economics Building is the perfect eternal home for its matron.

Patterson Hall:
It's allegedly spooked by a mist. An employee saw a shadow move across the wall while working alone in the building. Not the most solid case for a haunting, but hey...

Rossborough Inn/Carriage House:
The Inn was built between 1804 and 1812 by John Ross, a tavern keeper. The land passed through various hands until it became part of the Calvert family holdings. In 1858, the Calverts sold 420 acres of their land, including the Rossborough Inn, to the Maryland Agricultural College, later to become UM. It's also the home of Miss Betty.

Miss Betty is alleged to have been a Civil War nurse that tended to her charges at the Rossborough Inn, and apparently she took a liking to her surroundings.

She's one of the most sighted ghosts on campus, described as short with dark hair and wearing a yellow dress. Miss Betty has been credited with turning the Inn lights on and off, showing her face in the mirror, and setting up vases with fresh flowers.

There's also lore about about a dualist who fought more bravely than well outside the Inn, and died in one of its rooms. His blood is said to reappear on the floor.

In the attached Carriage House, there's reports of two spirits sitting on stools in the first floor restaurant.

Stamp Student Union: The SU hosts a myriad of campus organizations, and they report some hazardous working conditions. Lights go on and off, elevators run by themselves, doors open and close unaided, and there are cold spots. A fire went through the building years ago, and the smell of smoke is still present. And this is where a student goes to relax?

Washington Hall:
Ill-fated hoop star Len Bias' ghost is rumored to still be bouncing basketballs in his former residence hall.

But in spite of all those tales, we still think the strangest thing to haunt Maryland's campus is the statue of Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog, in front of the Stamp Student Union. Terrapins and frogs, oh my...

stamp student union henson and kermit

Picture from Wikia